Archive for October, 2010

Spiritual Ecology – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

October 29, 2010

Spiritual Ecology

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

How can we speak about sustainability without speaking about the Sustainer?

Finally we are waking up to our ecological imbalance, to the realities of global warming and its catastrophic consequences. It is also beginning to dawn upon us that these environmental changes are accelerating, that time is running out more quickly than we may realize. To quote a recent article in the New York Times by Paul Krugman:

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe—a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable—can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.1

And we are beginning to respond, with concerns about greenhouse gases and plans to reduce carbon emissions. We are proposing global protocols that can delude us into thinking we are taking responsible action even as we continue our demand for materialistic progress. But underlying our global predicament is an even deeper delusion, the notion that we can avoid environmental catastrophe without considering its root cause, without the change in consciousness that is needed to effect real change.

Behind our present ecological self-destruction, caused by industrial pollution, by the chemicals, toxins and particularly carbon that our civilization emits, lies our desire for material progress, the demon of consumerism and greed that walks with heavy boots over the sacred soil of our world. At the root of our predicament is a deep disregard for the environment, and for the consequences of our actions until it is too late. This is the product of a consciousness that is cut off from the natural world and its interconnectedness. It comes from an attitude that we are separate from the world around us and can do with it as we want—an attitude that is unthinkable to indigenous people who respect and revere the physical world, and whose cultures protect the balance between humanity and nature. Our western consciousness evolved through the birth of scientific reasoning to treat the physical world as a mere object, something mechanical whose laws we could learn and thus master. We developed the gifts of science, but also began to create the materialistic wasteland that we now inhabit. We banned the symbolic world as something superstitious, and the understanding of the relationship between the worlds that linked together all of creation, the concept of the “Great Chain of Being,” was forgotten. Rather than part of an interdependent whole, each part nourishing and supporting the other, we became lords of a soulless earth, which we sought to dominate and subjugate for our own ends.

Underlying this outlook is a deep partriarchal conditioning. As our collective consciousness shifted from a matriarchal understanding of the world as a living sacred being, the divine became a transcendent God, living in heaven. The sacred streams and groves became just the stuff of myth, the nature spirits that inhabited them forgotten. Patriarchal consciousness excluded the divine from the natural world, whose darkness man then had to conquer. We were left alone in the world with a God we could only experience after death. Living in a world without the presence of the divine, we had only our own laws to follow, our own desires to nourish us. The results of this consciousness can be seen in our ecological devastation and the soulless world of our materialistic dreams.

The question we now need to ask is whether we can redeem our present ecological situation without addressing the consciousness that created it. Can there be any real change without a shift in consciousness? What would this shift mean and how would it address the very real concerns of global warming? We cannot afford to be idealistic dreamers. There must be real solutions to our very real predicament.

In our patriarchal hubris we have forgotten something that has been central to every other civilization: the primacy and power of the divine. We may have banished God to the heaven of our imagination, but that does not mean that this supreme power is not present. Every other civilization developed and understood ways to work with this power, to channel Its energy. Shamans were trained to understand the way Its spirit worked, priests and priestesses learned to listen to Its voice, Its prophecies and warnings. Sacred geometry was developed to channel Its energy through sacred buildings. But now we have become blind and deaf to Its hidden ways. We may praise and pray to a God in heaven, but we do not understand how to welcome the divine into our lives. How can we heal and transform the world without the living presence of its Creator?

Monotheism pointed us away from the many gods and goddesses of the ancient world towards a single transcendent God. If the living presence of God is to return to our consciousness it will be not as a step back to the old ways, but as a divine Oneness that embraces all of creation. Mystics have always experienced the oneness of being, the many facets of creation reflecting the single Essence. We are beginning to be aware of the ecological unity of life and its interconnectedness; economically and technologically we are being drawn into an era of global oneness. We now need to understand divine oneness: how the different qualities of the divine form a living presence in the inner and outer worlds, and how these qualities work together as one.

On a very simple level we do not have the power or technology to “fix” our ecological crisis on our own. The problems we have created are too severe. And yet here is the very root of our misunderstanding. We cannot do this on our own. We need to embrace the divine not as some transcendent being, but as a living presence that contains the visible and invisible worlds, all of the spirit and angelic beings that our ancestors understood. The oneness of God includes many different levels of existence.

We know for our individual self  that real healing only takes place when we our inner and outer selves are aligned, when we are nourished by our own soul and the archetypal forces within us. What is true for the individual is true for the whole. It is from the energies within and behind creation that the healing of creation will take place, because these are the beings that support, nourish and help creation to develop and evolve. How can we heal creation without the help of the devas and other spiritual forces that are within creation? They are waiting to be asked to participate, for their wisdom and power to be used. We need to once again work together with the divine oneness that is within and around us.

But how can we learn how to work together with the inner worlds when our culture has dismissed them to such a degree that we have forgotten their existence? We may talk about angels, and even pray for their intercession, but do we really understand their power, or that they are just one level of invisible beings? The invisible worlds are present all around us even though we cannot see or touch them, just like the wavelengths of light beyond the small portion of the spectrum we can see. First we have to step out of our dream of separation, the insularity with which we have imprisoned ourselves, and acknowledge that we are a part of a multidimensional living spiritual being we call the world. The world is much more than just the physical world we perceive through the senses, just as we are much more than just our own physical bodies. Only as a part of a living whole can we help to heal the whole. Just as we need to work together with the outer ecosystem, we need to work together with the inner worlds. We need their support and help, their power and knowledge. The devas understand the patterns of climate change better than we do, because they are the forces behind the weather and the winds. Just as plant devas know the healing powers of plants (and taught the shamans and healers their knowledge), so are there more powerful devas that know and guide the patterns of evolution of the whole planet.

Once we regain our consciousness of the divine within creation, we will discover Her invisible presence in many different ways. And once we acknowledge how we are an interdependent part of this living whole, we will find that the divine can once again communicate with us. It is only humanity that has exiled itself from the divine, banished Her presence and thus become blind and deaf. When we lift this veil of separation we will rediscover the ways the divine within creation communicates with humanity, and how we can work together to save the planet. She will teach us what we need to know, guide us in the ways we need to go. We only need the humility to be open and listen, just as for our own healing we need to listen to our own soul and the deeper rhythms of our body.

But this shift in consciousness does mean that we will have to take responsibility for our actions and attitudes. We can no longer walk blindly, uncaring, on the face of the earth. Leaving behind the myth of our banishment means accepting our faults and the damage we have done in the inner and outer worlds. We are beginning to take responsibility for the ecosystem, though we have not yet fully realized that we will need to sacrifice our materialistic dream and to suffer the pain of withdrawal from this addiction. Taking responsibility for the damage we have done in the inner worlds, for example the sorrow we have caused the Great Mother by our abuse, is a step we have not yet taken. Nor do we realize how we have desecrated the symbolic worlds, whose sacred images are today being used as just another way to sell materialistic fantasies. Symbols and sacred images used to be a way to connect with the divine, to make the transition from the physical world to the mystery of the soul. Yet we now use these images for personal gain, without taking any responsibility for our actions, for the rape of the sacred. There will be a price to pay if we are to redeem the symbolic world of the creative imagination, just as we have to pay a price for our own faults and failings. Redemption requires real sacrifice. Only then can we regain the dignity that belongs to us, and help to heal the wrongs we have done.  Growing up requires responsibility and is a painful process.

To reclaim our dignity and role as guardians of the planet will not be easy. But we can pray for the intercession of His mercy, knowing, according to an ancient promise, that “His mercy is greater than His justice.” There is a real reason that the ancients understood that He is a wrathful God, and made penance and sacrifice to placate Him. We may think that our science and civilization can protect us from this primal power, but the symbol of the dragon as the power of the earth is not without meaning. We have little understanding of the archetypal forces that underlie our surface lives, and of how they are all interconnected and can manifest the will of God. We can no longer afford to be ignorant or think that we can abuse the world as long as we want.

Spiritual ecology means reawakening our awareness of what is sacred in all of creation, and knowing that only if we work together with the divine in all of its manifestations can we hope to redeem what we have desecrated and destroyed through our greed and arrogance. It means to reclaim the wisdom of our ancestors who knew the sacred interconnections of life and the divine forces within it. Once again we have to relearn how to relate to the divine, how to bring an awareness of the many facets of divine oneness into our lives and prayers and meditations. We cannot afford to remain in this wasteland of separation, lost in our ego-driven arrogance. And we cannot afford to wait. We have already waited too long, ignoring the signs that are around us. Nor can we afford to think that science and technology will give us the answers we need to restore our ecological imbalance. Their ideology is born from the separation of spirit and matter, and this is what has caused the problems that are now bleeding the lifeblood of the planet. Matter is not dead, however we may treat it. It is part of a living organism like the cells in our own body. And this living organism is an embodiment of spirit. We have to bring together spirit and matter, heal the split that has wounded our world.

The world has been through many crises over the millennia, but this is the first global crisis that has been created by humanity. Whether we take responsibility for our predicament will determine our future and the future of the world. There is an ancient teaching that in times of imminent catastrophe we are given the opportunity of divine intercession; we can look towards God and pray for divine help. We are at such a moment and the soul of the world is crying out. Are we prepared to welcome back the divine and work together with the forces of creation? Are we able to claim this real empowerment? Or are we going to remain on the sidelines and watch as the politicians argue while the world continues on its present course?

We do not know what it might mean to once again work with the divine forces within creation. In the West we have long since lost touch with this heritage, even though it is buried deep in our psyche. Yet it is a simple shift of awareness to reclaim this consciousness, and in doing so we will step into the future that is being born at this moment of crisis. We will become alive in a new way as we help the world wake up from the dream that is destroying it. We will be active participants in the real ecological work that is needed.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a sheikh in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujadidiyya Sufi Order. Born in London in 1953, he has followed the Naqshbandi Sufi path since he was 19. In 1991 he moved to Northern California and became the successor of Irina Tweedie, author of Chasm of Fire and Daughter of Fire. In recent years, the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness. He has also specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. Llewellyn is the founder of The Golden Sufi Center and author of several books.

This piece is taken from the website of the Seven Pillars House of Wisdom.

See on-line at: http://www.sevenpillarshouse.org/article/spiritual_ecology/

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Muslims Spearhead Environmental Efforts to Clean Up Cooks River in Sydney Australia

October 28, 2010

Muslim volunteers in Australia are leading efforts to clean up one of the most polluted areas of Sydney, highlighting the Islamic community’s growing involvement in environmental issues.

The Mizaan project, led by Nelley Youssef, is on a mission to clean up a stretch of Cooks River, one of Australia’s dirtiest and most contaminated rivers. It is nearing the successful completion of the Cooks River initiative and the Mizaan project is now setting its sights on other locations.

The volunteers have managed to tame several hundred metres of wild riverbank with the help of the local council, which has provided gardening tools, plants and expertise as well as chemicals and mulch. What was once a barren and forgotten tract of waterfront has been transformed, where native shrubs that were previously strangled by rampant weeds and undergrowth have been revitalised, along with populations of blue tongue lizards, frogs and birds.

“Islam encourages us to look after our environment because it is like the lungs of our body. Our responsibility and duty as Muslims is to look after the Earth,” said Ms Youssef, a member of the Al Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development, a Sydney-based community organisation.

“The reason why we are doing this is because there is a tradition of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, where he has told us that we should be looking after … one of God’s creations and by looking after it you get rewarded for it and you have a closer connection with God almighty. It helps strengthen your faith as well. Taking care of our surroundings gives us all a real sense of belonging.”

The Mizaan ecology scheme has been running for three years and its dedicated band of enthusiasts has planted more 4,500 native trees, including dozens of different species, which have helped to fortify a crumbling riverbank, creating a lush sanctuary for animals and insects.

“It’s like a mini-forest. It is a good feeling and we are making a difference step by step,” said Murisa Hasanovic, 20, who arrived in Australia from Bosnia nine years after her father was killed in the civil war, and was eager to do her bit to spruce up a small corner of her adopted homeland.

“Basically whatever God has created, including the environment, is placed in our trust, so we have to take care of it. If we don’t we will be questioned about it. We are trying to play a part, as little as it seems.”

The Mizaan project’s success has caught the attention of non-Muslims, who have been keen to help nature thrive in the middle of Australia’s largest city. Kristin Kolodziej, 26, has volunteered as part of her rehabilitation following the amputation of her right hand, lost to a blood disorder.

“It is good to be out because I was in hospital recently for quite a while,” said Ms Kolodziej, who was right-handed before the ravages of a staphylococcal infection. “It is my reality now. I either deal with it or I choose to lie in bed every day and cry,” she added as she clutched a trowel and gardening glove during a morning’s hard labour.

The success of the Cooks River initiative has drawn praise from across the local community and presented a positive impression of Australia’s Islamic minority that is far removed from the tired stereotypes that persist of Muslims as closeted, religiously fundamentalist and anti-western. “This is a great way to introduce a new image of Muslims, particularly Muslim women,” said Norhan Youssef, 32, one of the volunteers.

“It is also a great way of introducing a new culture, a new religion or a new thought among society as a whole.”

Sources:

Phil Mercer, “Muslims keep Australia green” The National UAE April 17, 2010

“Mizaan Ecology – Cooks River Regeneration Project” Al-Ghazzali Centre

 

This piece is taken from the Islam Today website.

See on-line at: http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-231-3589.htm

Environmental Order Being Fine-tuned

October 26, 2010

THE Ministry of Development is fine-tuning the draft of its Environmental Order to include air, land and toxic waste pollution control and to check on the environmental impact of all proposed government projects.

“The legal framework for the Environmental Order had been prepared by the Attorney General’s Chamber on January 31, 2010,” said Minister of Development Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdullah Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar on March 20, 2010. Upon completion of the final process, the minister assured that the Environmental Order would be enforced as soon as possible.

The minister gave this response to Dato Paduka Hj Idris Hj Ali, appointed council member, who asked when the order would be gazetted and implemented.

The need for Brunei’s own Environmental Order was brought up in the Sixth Legislative Council Meeting on March 20, 2010 by the appointed council member who raised the issue with the Minister of Development.

Dato Paduka Hj Idris stressed on the need to care for and monitor the environment against any threats through mechanisms such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before granting permission for any project to start. An EIA is an assessment of the possible impact positive or negative that a proposed project may have on the environment, consisting of the natural, social and economic aspects. “It is clear that we need a legal framework on the environment. The Environmental Order plays an important role in helping environmental issues,” he said.

The minister reassured the council members that “when all this is completed, the Environmental Order will be enforced as soon as possible”. At the same time, efforts have been done for Brunei to have a unified quality control for land development works under the Town and Country Planning agency and to evaluate building requirements especially with regards to water drainage and (probability of ) landslide.

Issues of littering were also brought up particularly the enforcement of the Public Littering Act. The Act which was introduced in 2006 was recently enforced in a bid to reduce pollution and safeguard the environment as well as to keep the country clean.

Sixty-three individuals and companies have been fined under (the anti-littering law) as of the beginning of 2010 until March 9 totalling $13,300, said Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Adanan Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Hj Mohd Yusof in response to a question from Hj Sulaiman Hj Ahai, an appointed council member.

“We have done numerous campaigns throughout the country but it didn’t work. We have no choice but to enforce the law. Depending on the offence, the compound ranges between $200 to $1,000 and offenders can also be charged in court,” the minister said.

This piece is taken from the Brunei Times.

See on-line at: http://news.brunei.fm/2010/03/21/environmental-order-being-fine-tuned/

Ignorance Unplanned Development Threaten Brunei Environment

October 26, 2010

PUBLIC ignorance of environmental protection and unplanned development is among the major environmental threats identified in Brunei, which joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Environment Day 2010 on June 5, 2010.

“Lack of knowledge about environmental protection has led people to resort to activities such as illegal dumping and open burning, two of the main factors harming our environment, and this is still going on in the country,” said Martinah Tamit, head of the Environment Planning and Management Division.

She added: “Unplanned development also contributed in this regard, with no proper assessment such as the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) being undertaken before certain developmental projects were implemented; projects which have potential harmful impact towards the environment.”

In an email interview with The Brunei Times, the officer from the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRE) said that several measures are being taken to overcome the situation. Among these are efforts to increase public awareness, stricter enforcement of the law as a deterrence and making it compulsory for all development projects to undertake EIA before implementation.

Martinah said that various inter-ministerial committees have been set up to look into these measures, adding: “Relevant departments are now encouraging members of the public to report any offences committed so that action can be taken against whoever causes destruction to the environment.”

She encouraged members of the public to register themselves as environment envoys to assist Jastre in promoting awareness of the environment.

“There are various campaigns which are already in place to promote this, such as the Environment Youth Envoy (EYE) programme. This EYE programme is for youth in Brunei who make up almost 60 per cent of our population, and we organise various activities for the envoys to encourage them to do their own environmental projects after sufficient training,” said Martinah.

She said that the response from the participants so far has been encouraging and more youth are aware of environmental issues today.

“This can be seen by the number of students who have chosen environmental courses in their studies abroad. There are also more NGOs established comprising youth today, such as the Beach Bunch,” she said.

In order to ensure that the members of the public could take part in environmental conservation actions and activities, Jastre now focuses on providing education, engagement and empowering the public in environmental conservation.

“We are confident that Bruneians are now more aware of environmental issues, therefore our activities will be more on engaging and empowering them so that they can be part of the initiators as we want to instill a greater sense of ownership and responsibility on the activities undertaken,” she said.

She pointed out the country’s high rate of waste generation. A ministry survey conducted in April 2005 showed that every inhabitant of this country produces about 1.4kg of waste daily.

“Just imagine, if we do not try to reduce our waste, we may face difficulties in disposing of them in the future as it requires more land, which is scarce,” she said.

Therefore, Bruneians need to change their behaviour to become more environmentally conscious and do their best to reduce their carbon footprint to achieve sustainable development.

The theme for this year’s WED, “Many species, one planet, one future”, focuses on conservation of biodiversity.

“The theme depicts the need to preserve our biodiversity for our future generation,” Martinah said.

Activities which have been laid out in line with the theme include the launching of the Kg Putat Herbal Recreational Park which is held on June 5, 2010, as well as the planting of “Karamunting” trees at the Pangkalan Pinang Penanjong Beach in Tutong on June 6, 2010.

The Herbal Recreational park is an initiative by “Kg Putat Consultative Council” with support from JASTRE. The park will be planted with varieties of Herbal Species that can be used for medicine as well as be an Eco-tourism destination.

The planting of “Karamunting” trees at the Pangkalan Pinang Penanjong Beach is to preserve the “Karamunting” species that may be under threat due to development and forest fires. Various tree species provided by Forestry Department will also be planted. The Brunei Times

This piece is taken from the website of the Brunei Times.

See on-line at: http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2010/06/05/ignorance-unplanned-development-threaten-brunei-environment

Eco-friendly Homes: An Islamic perspective

October 26, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

HUMAN activity promotes careless consumption of natural resources and this has had severe impact on the conditions of our climate, vegetation, population that will ultimately result in unpredictable natural disasters continuously taking place. The increase in global warming, natural disasters, pollution and the decrease in natural resources have become elements which push us to change our lifestyles. Many traditional homes consume a lot of electricity or contribute heavily to our carbon footprint. Eco-friendly homes are becoming a more popular alternatives; for many reasons including sustainability, cost-effectiveness and also encourage the use of natural materials which do not compromise the natural well-being of our forests. These homes reduce the amount of toxic chemicals and green house gases released into the air damaging our environment.

Sustainability is mentioned numerous times in holy Al-Quran and is strongly emphasised and encouraged in Islam. The role of man in this universe is to utilise less consumer-oriented lifestyles and develop the earth for the benefits of the mankind and living organisms. This is emphasised in a Hadith which states “there is a reward in doing good to every living thing.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Moreover, Allah (SWT) has assigned human beings as vicegerents (khilafa) on earth. As vicegerents we have been entrusted to maintain, care for and ensure sustainability of our environment. Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) states “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Sahih Muslim) Furthermore the holy Al-Quran goes on to say “And He has set within it mountains standing firm, and blessed it, and ordained in it its diverse sustenance in four days, alike for all that seek.” (Quran 41:10).

Eco-friendly homes are constructed from sustainable energy efficient resources such as wind and solar energy. These eco-friendly materials are sustainable, durable and are easy to use alternatives which reduce our carbon footprint. Solar heating for water is a very good alternative to electrical water heating which will help utilise the many hours of sunshine we get in a tropical climate like Brunei. The use of recycled materials is a crucial element and these materials are readily available such as recycled rubber, wood, and concrete which are the main components used in constructing these homes. Roofing can be constructed using rubber, and bamboo can be used to construct both the interior and exterior of the home.

Wind energy is a renewable energy resource which is frequently used as an energy resource for power lighting and appliances in common areas. Some windows are manufactured from thermo panes which are designed to save energy and increase efficiency and reduce consumption. These windows resemble double-glazed windows that reduce noise from the outside which may disturb people.

These homes will enable us to follow in the trend of ensuring sustainability and fulfilling our duty in looking after the planet we have been entrusted with. There are several alternatives used in the construction of eco-friendly homes. An example of this is bamboo which absorbs four times as much carbon dioxide then trees; it also grows quickly and is very durable. Waste material such as recycled masonry coming from torn down buildings is often burnt in landfills. This material can be utilised and used as concrete which will prevent many toxic chemicals from been released when it is burnt in landfills.

Many contractors and architects are opting for eco-friendly homes which have become a profitable business all around the world. For instance, in the United States eco-friendly and very affordable homes are been built using Tumbleweed as the main resource.

Moreover, many countries are opting to construct environmentally friendly cities. For instance China has constructed an entire city to consume wind energy as their source of power. In addition, Dubai is currently constructing a solar village called Dubai’s Vertical Village to utilise the heat from the desert. The building consists of residential, hotel and entertainment facilities. The Village includes a solar roof which transports energy and divides the field up of using renewable energy for the homes main source of energy into more manageable segments.

Our homes can also be adjusted to ensure they are eco-friendly by ensuring air tight windows are installed which reduce energy consumption, using eco-friendly paint for walls, using energy efficient light bulbs, installing water conserving toilets and showers and reusing old bricks. Composting toilets may also be considered as an alternative to traditional toilets which consume too much water.

Some furniture retailers sell furniture manufactured from recycled materials which has not been produced in factories that produce a lot of toxic waste in their production. Energy efficient appliances are a great way in promoting eco-friendliness. Apart from doing their jobs, they also reduce heavy consumption of energy. These appliances range from dishwashers, refrigerators to washers and dryers as well.

By choosing to follow in these trends we are exercising the right and moral duty Allah (SWT) has given us to utilise natural resources to be used qualitatively.

Moreover, it enables us to avoid causing degradation to the environment and exploiting natural resources unwisely to destroy our planet which Allah (SWT) has warned of strong consequences for doing so in the holy Al-Quran.

Sarah Saad is a freelance writer

The Brunei Times

This piece is taken from the website of the Brunei Times.

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Islamic Perspective On Environment Viz-a-viz Mindanao Natural Resources

October 25, 2010

“BISMILLAH HIRAKHMAN HIRAKHIM”
(In the name of Allah, The Sustainer, The Merciful)

“ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE ON ENVIRONMENT VIZ-A-VIZ MINDANAO NATURAL RESOURCES”
By: Zulfikhar S. Abdullah, Ernesto T. Santa Cruz- October 2009

Muslim- Chief of Staff of ( RLA-ARMM) Assemblyman Datu Suharto S. Midtimbang Cotabato City –

Christian Catholic- Chairman- Department of Environment and Ecology of the United Bangsamoro Sultanates and Royalties of the Philippines (NGO) Cotabato City –

INTRODUCTION

Several decades ago, many environmentalist groups/institutions and even individuals from different sectors of society emerged and strived hard to advocate awareness on the destruction and devastation of our environment both in the local and global domain. Apparently, such advocacies were not able to reach the target level of participation from our local and international communities. Statistically, this can perhaps be traced to the worsening environmental problems of every well developed and developing countries of the world with the exception of few countries.

During those decades, perhaps some advanced technocrat countries perceived that by preserving and protecting their own environment domains they would be exempted to the upheaval of their environment. What they set aside are the realities that our mother earth is one oblate spheroid chattel where the seas and the oceans are not separated from each other though our lands and soils are polarized geographically through the formation of different continents.

It also has to be noted that most of the religions in the world, being a spiritual source of mankind had less contribution in the advocacy of environment protection and conservation. For some reason, they have depended upon their respective governments and put down their full trust on the matter of environment as the prime responsibility of the government. Every government, therefore, have institutionalized a separate department on environment matters. In some other way, this can be associated to the doctrine of separation of politics and religion or say the division between the moral and legal vernacular or due to the partition of the man made laws and the holy the scriptures.

A NEW BEGINNING

Fortunately, the emergence of this “Mindanao Interfaith Stewardship Dialogue 2009” through “Interfaith Dialogue on the Integrity of Creation” initiated by Xavier University, SEA for Mindanao and KAFI Foundation, heralds to create a common stance and possibly serve as a nucleus to open up a avenue for our religious sectors to participate and impart their moral and spiritual perception on environmental matters and to be able to achieve a meeting of minds in our midst. And also to intensify multi-sectoral cooperation to advocate a common ground to our roles and responsibilities on the notion of stewardship over the integrity of Mindanao’s God-given natural resources.

ISLAMIC CONCEPT OF ENVIRONMENT

We know that the environment is one of today’s most serious problems both in the local and global domain. It is a problem that perils not only us but the whole world, our future generations and their right to live in a healthy environment. It is causing many countries including the Philippines to move toward an era in a state of apprehension and fear. This compels us to understand the environmental problems and to help in solving them in our simple yet concerted best level ways.

Precisely, we have to consider the environment from a broad perspective. Foremost, we should not forget that the Creator and Owner of all environments is at the same time our Creator.

Environment is formed by our house, garden, and car, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the town in which we live, and the people we live with. So too, it is formed by the seas, lakes, rivers, roads, mountains, and forests, which are shared by all the members of society and so to speak the entire universe itself is our environment.

Apparently, when we say “environment,” we have to understand all our surroundings in which we and all living creatures live. While by “environmental pollution,” we mean the dirtying and spoiling of these natural surroundings. The air is polluted, the seas are polluted, the ozone layer is diminishing, different animal species becoming extinct or endangered and the devastation of our forest lands. We can also include the pollution of our social environment, worldwide poverty and famine, deprivation of human rights, homelessness, migration problems, racism, abandoned children, wars, drug abuse, alcohol addiction and violence to mention a few.

On the other hand, since this particular interfaith dialogue focuses on the God-given natural resources of Mindanao, then I should focus my presentation on the Islamic perception on natural resources (environment) and the concept of stewardship being emphasized as gamut of our interfaith dialogue. Luckily, we must be grateful, despite hectic schedules of our spiritual vocations in our respective religions, we were be able to appreciate that religion has an important role to play in overcoming these environmental problems and to be able to develop a comprehensive and integral environmental consciousness. And to strengthen our stance as unified force to preserve, protect and conserve our natural resources (environment).

Basically, as far as my research is concerned, according to Islamic point of view, everything in the universe is created by God. It is God who adorns the skies with the sun, the moon and the stars, and the face of the earth with flowers, trees, gardens, orchards, and the various animal species. It is again God who causes the rivers and streams to flow on the earth, Who upholds the skies , causes the rain to fall, and places the boundary between night and day. The universe together with all its richness and vitality is the work and art of God, that is, of the Creator. It is again God who created all plants and animals in pairs, in this way causing their procreation and preservation. God created man subsequently to all these – to entrust these environment.

Islam believes that men are God’s vicegerents on earth, to steward all the created things both the living and the non-living things. We were given an intellect (reason) before He put the trust to manage all created things accordingly, with its due measures and proportions. Just as we are not the lords of nature and the world, so the world is not our property which we can dispose of as we wish or as we are able. Nature was created by God and it belongs to God. Everything in nature is a sign of God’s existence; that is, a token or missive. The Holy Qur’an expresses this truth as follows:

“Behold, thy lord said to the angels: I will create a vicegerent on earth.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah (chapter) II, Verse 30)… “It is He (Lord) who hath created for you all things that are on earth; Moreover His (lord) design comprehended the heavens, for He (Lord) gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments; and of all things He (lord) hath perfect knowledge.” (Holy Qur’an, Sarah. chapter II, Verse 29).

“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds subjugated between the sky and earth — [here] indeed are signs for a people that are wise.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah. chapter II, Verse 164)

The Beloved Prophet of Islam, Mohammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) both in his practices and “Hadiths” (sayings of the Holy Prophet), attached a great importance to planting trees, protecting existent ones, planting forests, as well as to conserving existent ones. His practices and conduct related to conservation of the environment should therefore be considered from the Qur’anic standpoint. For us his actions are sources of inspiration constituting his works and deeds/practices, which the Muslims are obliged to follow. To put it another way, as in all matters, the exemplar of Islamic conduct related to the environment and the person who displayed it in most perfect fashion was God’s Messenger (PBUH). His commands concerning it, are learnt, the Muslims weighty responsibilities become clear.

†On migrating to Medina from Mecca, God’s Messenger (PBUH) organized the planting of trees and of date groves. He made the forests and green spaces conservation areas, where every sort of living creature lived. These were called sanctuaries (hima). For example, a strip of land approximately twelve miles wide around Medina was proclaimed a sanctuary and made a conservation area. We know that He proclaimed other areas, similar to this, sanctuaries. All these show the paramount importance —as a religion— Islam gives to nature conservancy and protection of all nature’s living creatures.

SOME HADITHS OF THE PROPHET CONNECTED WITH PLANTING TREES AND PROTECTING THEM

“If you have a sapling, if you have the time, be certain to plant it, even if Doomsday starts to break forth.” (al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iii, 30)

“Whoever plants trees, God will give him reward to the extent of their fruit.” (Musnad, v, 415)

“Whoever reclaims and cultivates dry, barren land will be rewarded by God for the act. So long as men and animals benefit from it He will record it for him as almsgiving.”(al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, vi, 39; Haythami, Majmau al-Zawaaid, iv, 67-8)

“Whoever plants a tree, reward will be recorded for him so long as it produces fruit.”(Majma’ al-Zawaid, v, 480)

“If a Muslim plants a tree, that part of its produce consumed by men will be as almsgiving for him. Any fruit stolen from the tree will also be as almsgiving for him. That which the birds eat will also be as almsgiving for him. Any of its produce which people may eat thus diminishing it, will be as almsgiving for the Muslims who planted it”.(Bukhari, Tajrid al-Sahih, vii, 122; Muslim, Musaqat, 2 No. 2)

“The reward accruing from seven things continue to reach the person concerned even if he is in his grave: knowledge he has taught, water he has provided for the public benefit, any well he has dug, any tree he has planted, a mosque he has built, recitations of the Qur’an bequeathed to him, and children who pray for him after his death.”(al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iv, 87)

Following these commands of the Qur’an and the exemplary practices of God’s Messenger (PBUH), throughout history, Muslims have given importance to planting trees and protecting existing one’s. The holy Prophet (PBUH), when sending an expedition for a battle to Muta, gave some instructions and underlines that: “Do not cut down trees and do not kill animals except for food (in the enemy territory).”

Green is the color of Islamic civilization, so too the dome of Prophet’s tomb is green. These are not mere coincidence; they should be seen as reflecting the importance Islam gives to greenery, nature, and trees.

Another important thing related to the environment is the good treatment of the animals, and the protection of them; or more correctly, extending our kindness and compassion to them. However, today many animal species are becoming extinct and endangered. Other animals stray abandoned and hungry in the streets. Taken as a whole, therefore, it cannot be said that we treat animals well and carry out our duties towards them. For Islam regulates not only relations between and among individuals and between individuals and society and the state, it also regulates relations between God, man and nature (environment). A natural consequence of this is that man is answerable to God for his attitude and actions towards nature (environment) and animals. This may be seen in the one Hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH):

“If without good reason anyone kills a sparrow, or a creature lesser than that even, the living creature will put his plaint to God on the Day of Judgment, saying: ‘So-and-so killed me for no purpose.”(al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iv, 87)

AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO ( RLA-ARMM)

These are only few Qur’anic injunctions and Hadiths of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), regarding forest related matters that inspires yours truly through the office of former Speaker Pro-Tempore of the Regional Legislative Assembly, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ( RLA-ARMM) Assemblyman Datu Suharto S. Midtimbang to craft a bill that would serve as a legacy to our generations, principally to protect and conserve the remaining natural forests and to rehabilitate our denuded forestlands specifically in the area of the Autonomous region, encouraged by Sultan Mohammad H. Adil, the Sultan of Kutawato. Auspiciously, the “Regional Sustainable Forest Management Act, (RSFMA) of 2004” surfaced.

This law was basically crafted in line with the existing laws of the Philippine Republic, the “Adat” (refers to customs and traditions practiced by any of the tribes in the area of the ARMM), the “Taritib ago Igma” (refers to the unwritten customary “Adat” laws of the tribes in the area of the ARMM) and in the framework of the Shari’ah Law (refers to the totality of God’s commandments to man, it is oftentimes translated as Islamic law). Thus, the concept of “Kilafah” (vicegerent or steward of God) and “Amanah”) constructive use and development of the earth is a trust from God) were given extensive emphasis and contemplation.

Since the area of the ARMM is comprised of five (5) component provinces, with its diversified major tribes such as Maguindanawons of Maguindanao, Tausogs of Sulu, Maranaos of Lanao, Yakans of Basilan and Sama of Tawi-Tawi and some other indigenous tribes in Mindanao i.e the Kalagan of Davao Oriental, the Tirurays, with the participation of some non-Muslim religious group, such as, Roman Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists and other sectors currently residing in the area of the Autonomous region, it must also be noted that the said “RSFMA” bill was conceptualized based on the basic principles of popular consultation among the stakeholders of the Autonomous government in harmony and with high regards to the customary traditions between and among the inhabitants of the ARMM.

In addition, this Forest Management Act as a form of “Kilafah” (Stewardship) and “Amanah” (Trust) – the conservation, protection, constructive utilization, management and development of forestlands and their resources shall be considered as a divine trust and the people involved in those duties and obligations shall be considered as stewards or trustees who are not only responsible to the state and the people but are also accountable to the Almighty God.

CONCLUSION

Islam through its Holy Book the Holy Qur’an and Hadiths (sayings and deeds) of the last Prophet of God, the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) clearly emphasized that environment and its natural resources were created by God for the benefit of the entire mankind, being the source of life and other things that benefits man itself in due proportions and measures, i.e food, shelter, potable water, fruits, vegetation, etc, God also created man to be his vicegerent (kilafah/stewardship) on earth and amanah (trust) based on the reasons He bestowed upon man purposely, to protect, conserve and preserve the natural resources for its sustainability to man’s needs accordingly.

In an attempt to synthesize the problem of forest destruction and denudation in the area of the autonomous region, the Regional Sustainable Forest Management Act of 2004 was thus crafted in harmonization to Islamic perspectives on environment, in line with the existing laws of the Republic of the Philippines and the Adat (customary traditions of different tribes). The RSFMA aims to salvage the destructed and denuded forestlands in the area of ARMM.

The said law also aspires to create an avenue to rehabilitate the forestlands of the autonomous region to pave the way for alternative ways to uplift the living condition of the inhabitants by developing income generating livelihood programs out of the constructive utilization of natural resources of our environment. Such livelihood programs will eventually lead to the betterment of the people’s lives thereby build an atmosphere of peace that serves as the stimulus of development not only in the area of the autonomous region but possibly in the entire Mindanao and its islands.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I seek refuge to “Allah”, the creator and the master of universe, to the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and His guidance, I would like to express gratitude to the people behind this paper who patiently supported and enlightened us. To Johnny Cabreira, for including the Sultanates and ARMM in the list of participants thus enabling them to express their knowledge and wisdom regarding these responsibilities, for keeping us updated and for taking care of our board and lodging; to the secretariat, for patiently updating us; to Bai Dolly Adil, for raising funds for our transportation and other expenses; and lastly, to Sultan Mohammad H Adil , Al Hajj for acknowledging and trusting us to prepare and present this literature representing the Sultanates and its constituents to this worthy forum, “Interfaith Dialogue on the Integrity of Creation”, initiated by Xavier University, SEA for Mindanao and KAFI Foundation. “Alhamduli’lah”

This piece is taken from the website of Kuro-Kuro.

See on-line at: http://kuro-kuro.org/index.php/archives/2001

USAID Releases “Al Khalifa (The Steward): Environmental Sourcebook with Islamic Perspective

October 25, 2010

Muslim religious leaders in Western Mindanao warmly received Al Khalifa (The Steward), a sourcebook on environmental protection and conservation written from the perspective of Islam.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Philippine Environmental Governance 2 Project (EcoGov2), worked with Muslim community leaders, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, educators, and Qur’anic experts from Western Mindanao to develop Al Khalifa. USAID released introductory copies of the sourcebook in Zamboanga City on April 22, 2007 to coincide with the global celebration of Earth Day. The sourcebook, the first publication of its kind in the country, underscores the commitment of the EcoGov2 project to promote good environmental governance practices in Western Mindanao.

Right now, 20 local government units (LGUs) in the Western Mindanao provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay receive substantial technical assistance from the EcoGov 2 project. USAID’s EcoGov2 project developed Al Khalifa to help LGUs in predominantly Muslim regions of the Philippines improve their capacity for sound ecological governance.

Based on the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, Al Khalifa seeks “to educate leaders and followers in Muslim communities that the environment and ecological governance are part of man’s responsibilities as God’s vicegerents on earth” and “to enable Muslims to be involved in environmental governance through a clearer understanding and better appreciation of his responsibilities and accountabilities as prescribed by Islam.”

Al Khalifa is inspired by the Islamic principle of man as God’s steward and trustee on earth. As stated in the sourcebook, “Islam exemplifies rightful conduct…and regulates man’s life according to the halal-haram dichotomy, of what is allowed and forbidden, lawful and unlawful… And Islam views the care and management of the environment as part of every Muslim’s religious obligation.”

Endorsements by Islamic religious leaders of Al Khalifa :

In Zamboanga City, Deputy Mufti for Western Mindanao and Palawan Sheikh Abdulwakil Tanjilil of the Darul Ifta, endorsed Al Khalifa. He said that, “As a Muslim, one should be aware of the responsibilities in the use of earth’s natural resources and the care of the environment, and should enjoin his Muslim brothers to obey Allah commands them to do, in relation to them.” He also enjoined “all concerned Muslims to propound the teachings from the Al Khalifa in their daily activities, at home and in government, schools and mosques, work and leisure, and to consider all these as part of Islamic worship”.

In Lamitan, Basilan, Ustadz Ulama Usman Mangkabung heartily accepted the sourcebook stressing that “the people are all responsible for the environment”.

In Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay Province, Hadji Jaalal Saniel appreciated the book as a “good source to support what the Qur’an and Hadith command”.

In Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay, Ustadz Abdul Mauna recommended that the book be used as in instructional reference in the different madaris (Islamic schools) all over the country.

Earlier, in the Islamic City of Marawi, Al Khalifa was used as a reference in a khutbah (a religious sermon) delivered on April 13, 2007 at Masjed Bubong Lilod by Amrola Diambangan, aleem (“learned man”) of the Young Moro Professional Network, Madaya.

This piece is taken from the website of the Philippine Environmental Governance Project.

See on-line at: http://ecogovproject.denr.gov.ph/docs/Story_USAID_releases_Al%20Khalifa_The_Steward.htm

Christians-Muslims Meet to Address Global Warming

October 25, 2010

On September 8, 2010, a former Philippine senator and environmental activist revealed plans to organize an interfaith dialogue among religious leaders to address global warming.

Former senator Heherson Alvarez, vice chairman of the government’s Climate Change Commission, said he will enlist the help of different religious organizations in the country in the fight against effects of climate change, ucanews.com reports.

He announced his plan during a press conference held after a roundtable discussion among Muslim leaders and environmental activists in Quezon City.

The Muslim Association for Climate Change Action (MACCA) was also launched during the conference. MACCA, according to organizers, was an offshoot of the Muslim Seven-Year Action Plan on Climate Change crafted in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2009.

Amina Rasul, lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID), said more than 20 Muslim intellectuals, scientists and environmentalists joined the discussion organized by her group in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Peace and Equity Foundation.

The participants expressed concern over the impact of environmental destruction, particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is most vulnerable to the rise in sea level.

“The Muslim community is speaking out,” said Rasul. She added that 70 percent of the 1.4 billion Muslims across the globe live in places that are vulnerable to climate change like Pakistan, which is now experiencing the worst floods in years. India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are other threatened countries where Muslims live.

“When I was still DENR secretary I gave 10 Catholic bishops mountains to protect. They planted trees and improved the environment, and they were successful,” Alvarez told ucanews.com.

He mentioned mountains in Agusan province in Mindanao and in Antipolo city east of Manila. “Only Bishop Julio Labayen encountered a problem with people who burned some trees for charcoal. But he was able to solve it.”

Retired Carmelite Bishop Labayen at that time headed Infanta prelature comprising the northern part of Quezon Province, Polillo archipelago, Jomalig Island, Patnanungan town and Aurora Province in northern Philippines.

“Now these Muslims can nurture and protect the watershed of Marawi which is a source of clean water and hydroelectric power,” Alvarez said.

“Because the public sector failed we need the religious sector and the NGOs to protect the environment.”

This piece is taken from the website of CathNews Asia.

See on-line at: http://www.cathnewsasia.com/2010/09/08/religions-to-address-global-warming/

Muslim Clerics Urged to Include Environment in Sermons

October 25, 2010

09/07/2010

The country’s ulamas have been urged to take on a new task: preach about the environment.

The local branch of the Muslim Associations for Climate Change Action has asked the country’s Muslim clerics to include sermons on the environment during the Friday worship seeing as the country’s five million Muslims in Mindanao are, aside from armed conflicts, threatened by global warming.

MACCA-Philippines convenor Amina Rasul said: “Most Muslim citizens living in Mindanao, they’re livelihood are connected with natural resources like land, water. You will have five million who will not be able to support their livelihood in the years to come.”

Rasul said studies show that the people of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao are vulnerable to the effects of global warming like drought and floods.

Since these places are also witness to armed conflicts, the residents in these areas would find it doubly hard to adapt to the changes in the environment.

“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources addressing all of those challenges, so is the Climate Change Commission. We are coming in because we found out that there is not much that’s being done to work on these issues in the Muslim communities,” Rasul said.

The first meeting of MACCA in Kuwait in 2009 produced a call that urged “among other things, getting the ulamas to talk about the environment and the need to protect the environment during the Friday prayers,” Rasul said.

“Another issue, they said, that we should have [the] environment inserted into the curriculum of the ‘maddrassah,’” she said, referring to the Islamic schools.

Rasul said ulamas and Muslim scholars are vital in advocacy building and urging communities into action. Every village in Muslim Mindanao, she said, has an ulama who is respected by the community.

Already, there were Muslim scholars and clerics who preach about protecting the environment. The mufti of Tawi-Tawi, for instance, is active in environmental matters, Rasul noted.

“So, it would be good if you can bring the ‘khutba’ (sermon) from Tawi-Tawi and spread it in the hundreds of Mosques all over the country. Then you would have a Friday sermon encouraging the faithful to protect the environment. Pick up your litter. Don’t burn rubber. Don’t cut trees. Plant a tree. All of these things they can start working on at the advocacy level,” Rasul said.

This piece is taken from the website of the Inquirer.net

See on-line at: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view/20100907-291038/Muslim-clerics-urged-to-include-environment-in-sermons

Philippine Muslims Form Network to Confront Climate Change

October 25, 2010

October 3, 2010

A group of Muslim Filipino scientists, religious leaders, academics, and activists recently formed a network intended to confront the issue of climate change to Muslim communities during a round table gathering convened by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)at the Imperial Palace Suites in Quezon City.

The roundtable discussion on Muslim Action for Climate Change(MACC) was supported by the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) and the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc.

The Muslim leaders agreed to support the initiatives of the global Muslim Seven Year Plan.

Action Plan on Climate Change 2010-2017 (M7YAP) approved during the historic conference on climate change held in Istanbul from July 5-7, 2009, wherein 200 Muslim leaders committed to spur action to protect the natural environment and combat climate change.

The Muslim leaders gathered at the roundtable on MACC agreed to establish their Philippine network to respond to the challenges of climate change and to support the initiatives of the M7YAP as well as work with the global MACCA.

Climate Change and the Muslim World Climate change is increasingly seen as the most critical challenge facing the world today. The Islamic world is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of the effects of rising sea levels, with their effects on Muslims living in coastal communities.

Patterns of drought and rainfall are also expected to change, with enormous consequences for human populations. For the Philippines, studies have shown that many of the areas that are highly vulnerable to projected temperature increases; impacts of El Nino events, salt-water intrusion and sea level rise are in Muslim Mindanao.

With the more than 5million Muslims that are in harm’sway, the participants to the lastweek’s Muslim Action for Climate Change RTD expressed the need to engage and mobilize scientists, scholars and environmental organizations to conduct research and information and education activities on climate change and environmental sustainability.

For instance, studies by Greenpeace and data from the National Statistics Coordination Board (NCSB) show that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is ranked first among all regions in terms of vulnerability to a one-meter rise in sea level.

Sulu inparticular is the most vulnerable province in the country in terms of vulnerability to a one-meter rise in sea level.

A Response from Muslim Filipinos, PCID President Amina Rasul explained that the formation of MACCA-Philippines is actually the response of Muslims in the Philippines to the Muslim Seven Year Action Plan for Climate Change (M7YAP) that wascrafted in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2009 for all Muslim countries.

“Our people are most vulnerable, since oursituation is compounded by the armed conflict and poverty pervasive in our communities,” Ms. Rasul said, “we need to act, we need to respond, as individuals and ascommunities.”

The plan, drawn up by Earth Mates Dialogue Centre, an NGO based in London, and supported by Alliance of Religions and Conservation or ARC, as part of the UN/ARC Seven Year Plan Initiative, proposed investigating every level of Muslim activity from daily life to annual pilgrimages, from holy cities to the futuretraining of Imams.

Its network also issued a declaration expressing their willingness to put forward a united Muslim front to take action against thecatastrophic consequences ofclimate change.

The Istanbul conference proposed the establishment of the “Muslim Associations for Climate Change Action” or “MACCA” as an umbrella organization to manage the attainment of proposals under the M7YAP.
Part of this action plan was the convening of the First International Conference onMuslim Action on Climate Change in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia last April 9-10, 2010 where 200 environment experts, academics and clerics from 30 countries with Muslim population.

From the Philippines, Ms. Rasul and Dr. Filemon G. Romero, Professor of Oceanography of Environmental Science of the Mindanao State University in Tawi-Tawi were invited as resource persons.

The lead organization in South East Asia is the KEHATI Foundation for Biodiversity of Indonesia, which hosted the first international conference for MACCA in Bogor.

The Bogor conference stressed that Muslims should become agents of change to protect the environment with the help of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Participants called on the OIC to promote climate change policies and setup a special council to take the lead on climate change issues, a conference said.

The initiative received support from various government officials who attended the forum.

DENR SecretaryR amon Paje, represented by Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, Jr. lauded the efforts of Muslims to unite and join the global effort to combat the negative impact of climate change.

“The DENR will fullysupport this initiative by ourMuslim brethren,” Sec. Paje said.

Senate Committee on Climate Change Chair Sen. Loren Legarda stressed the need to provide a global response to the global menace that is climate change and congratulated the convenors of MACCA-Philippines for their effort.

Sen. Legarda, who is known for her advocacy of the environment and the rights of Muslims in the Philippines,i nvited the group to brief her committee on the MACCA initiative.

Climate Change Commission Vice-Chair Sec. Heherson Alvarez, meanwhile, said that the commission is fully committed to strengthening grassroots initiatives such as MACCA-Philippines as a way of helping government harness the nation’s resources in its fight to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Former Representative Nereus Acosta, principal author of theClean Air Act, the Clean WaterAct, the Solid Waste Management Act, and the Biodiversity Protection Act, expressed the hope that MACCA-Philippines can help in changing the mindset of politicians, officials and the people in general in addressing the problem of climate change.

He noted that while laws andaction plans have been crafted with respect to climate change, it is important to educate and inform the people not just of the terrible consequences of climate change but how one can contribute to arrest its harmful effects.

The declaration on Muslim Action for Climate Change, which wassigned by allthe participants, cited the fact that the Islamic faith considers “all men andwomen as Allah’s vicegerents on earth.”

The signatories to the declaration expressed their willingness to contribute “their expertise and necessary resources” to fully support the ideals and initiatives of the Muslim Association for Climate Change Action (MACCA) and the Muslim Seven Year Action Plan on Climate Change 2010-2017.

The participants also agreed to establish the Muslim Association for Climate Change Action in the Philippines (MACCA-Philippines). They agreed to work together to research and develop programs to address the problem of climate change, in cooperation with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, the Presidential Commission onClimate Change and other national as well as international institutions. Press Release

This piece is taken from the website of Zamboanga Today Online.

See on-line at: http://zamboangatoday.ph/index.php/news/13-top-stories/1036-philippine-muslims-form-network-to-confront-climate-change.html